With kids back in school, parents are bracing for a battle over packed lunches. Parents want to provide healthy food while kids often ask for processed or junk food.
The trick, according to registered dietitian Arlene Cristall, is to involve kids in the planning of meals right from the start.
This could begin with kids growing their own vegetables in the garden or patio planters to include in salads or sandwiches, to going grocery shopping with mom and dad, to preparing meals and packing lunches the night before.
Cristall co-ordinates Shapedown BC, a program at B.C. Children's Hospital that helps children, adolescents and their families manage weight concerns. Here are some of her tips for packing school lunches:
. Families need to have a plan. What will kids eat, what won't they eat, and where are parents willing to compromise? It's a twoway street; parents and kids need to work together.
. Spend time thinking about what you're going to pack for lunch to make it appealing visually as well as tasty and nutritious.
. Include each of the food groups when packing a lunch, including meat and alternatives, grain products, vegetables and fruits, and milk and alternatives.
. Don't worry if kids indulge occasionally. Follow the 80/20 rule: If they're eating well 80 per cent of the time and getting plenty of exercise, the 20 per cent they indulge in unhealthy choices won't be a problem.
. Involve your kids in preparing lunches. If they've had a hand in making them, they're more likely to eat what's in their lunch bag.
. Stay away from processed foods, as these foods are high in sugar and salt and low in fibre, which means kids get hungrier faster. Processed deli meats are also low in nutrients; choose roasted chicken or beef instead.
. Stay away from zero-fat foods. For example, when buying yogurt, choose 1 to 1.5 per cent fat, as it is less processed and keeps kids feeling fuller longer.
. Get creative. If your child likes Caesar salad, put a little chicken in it for protein, substitute a lighter dressing and add it to a pita pocket.
. Pack a healthy beverage - water is best - or juice, but limit the juice to one a day because of the sugar content.